The winters of 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 brought unexpected and prolonged severe weather conditions to Scotland which caused significant disruption to the roads network and the delivery of key public services, as well as broader impacts on local economies.
During the last three years local authorities and our local and national partners have responded to the impact of these conditions jointly. The challenges have included shortages in salt stocks, severe impacts on road and other transport networks, including trunk road closures, trying to ensure business continuity in key services such as providing care for the vulnerable, and school closures.
COSLA established a task group comprising members and representative officers from a range of professional associations following the winter of 2010/11 to review the work we have undertaken following recent winters, to see where improvements in resilience planning had been made, and where further improvements could be made.
This interim report presents the findings of the initial stages of our work which has taken advice from our member councils and the relevant professional bodies. We offer the following recommendations and messages;
Winter Service Planning and Climate Change
1. COSLA would welcome further discussions with Scottish Government with regard to climate change and local authority winter resilience planning ahead of the development and publication of the first statutory adaptation framework for Scotland.
2. COSLA would welcome further discussions between the main partners to enhance preparation and joint planning between Scottish Government and councils in order to source and maintain stock levels of de-icing materials and avoid paying premium prices in–season.
3. COSLA would recommend that co-ordination and contracting arrangements between Transport Scotland, the Trunk Road Operating Companies, and local authorities are reviewed annually to ensure the best possible level of service for the public.
4. COSLA recommends that formal agreement is needed on the strategic co-ordination of information between Scottish Government, the Scottish Salt Group, Strategic Co-ordinating Groups, and local authorities. This should include prior planning and agreement on a suite of reasonable and meaningful information that is required, why and when it is required, and when it can be provided.
5. It is recommended that Scottish Government, in consultation with COSLA, should continue to lead on providing strategic messages to the public that local authorities could augment with local information. For specific messaging and information on locally managed services such as schools, local authorities should provide the lead.
Guidance on Local Public Services
6. COSLA recommends that national guidance on the delivery of local services be kept to a minimum, and only issued after prior consultation with COSLA. Nationally issued guidance can create expectations at a local level where the specific circumstances and weather conditions might not allow for the guidance to be implemented. Guidance and messages to the public about locally managed services are best delivered by the local authority.
7. COSLA recommends that further advice from Scottish Government on pathway clearance and legal liability be issued as this would significantly assist local authorities in encouraging and supporting community resilience and self-help. This could form part of the Scottish Government proposed National Resilience Week, with assistance from local authorities to encourage personal responsibility and utilise community assistance.
Finance and Resources
8. COSLA would welcome discussions with Scottish Government on resourcing issues, particularly the possibility of a framework arrangement for additional provision to local authorities in exceptional circumstances.
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